A senior officer who served in the Armenian traffic police until recently was arrested on Friday for allegedly embezzling more than 150 tons of fuel that was allotted to police cars.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS) said Colonel Stepan Karakhanian is suspected of abuse of power and large-scale embezzlement. He has not been formally charged yet.
Corresponding articles of Armenia’s Criminal Code carry between two and eight years in prison for such crimes.
Earlier this month, Karakhanian was dismissed as commander of a road police division following an inquiry conducted by a national police department tasked with combating organized and other serious crime.
Citing information collected by the feared police unit, the SIS said on Thursday that Karakhanian was supposed to distribute 277 tons of petrol to road police patrols across Armenia but that only 121 tons of it actually reached them. The rest of the fuel was “misappropriated” by the colonel, the SIS said in a statement.
The statement did not specify the period of time during which the alleged embezzlement took place.
The SIS also announced on Thursday a separate criminal investigation into what it called a sale of driver licenses by “certain officials from the road police.” The law-enforcement agency subordinate to state prosecutors did not name any of those officials or say if they will be arrested too.
It said only that they received bribes from license applicants in return for exempting them from mandatory driving tests. The illegal practice has long been the norm in Armenia.
The criminal proceedings have fuelled media speculation about the impending dismissal of the chief of the road police, Margar Ohanian. Alik Sargsian, head of the national police service, did not rule out such possibility on Thursday.
Speaking to journalists, Sargsian said he is not yet considering sacking Ohanian. But he said Ohanian will have to “give answers just like other citizens” if investigators conclude that he personally benefited from the stolen fuel or was aware of the alleged embezzlement.